Forum Thread

Asset Management and Tracking folders.

SuicidalClown 405 101 October 19, 2015 at 10:21 PM
I work for a small office that doesn't have a software that tracks the whereabouts of their files. (physical)

We have a few thousand of files A-Z. It's a chaotic environment where a staff would grab the file and if another needs the same file, I end up having to do a filehunt.

I've been searching for a software or system I can use inexpensive.. preferably free. For me to implement. (My boss is cheap)

My idea is to use barcodes to track the folders. Is this possible. I've already established a easy way to create barcode (code128) with excel. but Is there a software or in excel to let say if I were to buy 4 scanners (4 office) and if a staff would scan a code with their scanner, the system will update - showing where the file was last scanned. = showing the location.

Or is there all other simpler way to do this?
Open for any idea. Thanks in advance

19 Comments

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#2
Sounds like a lost cause since it's doubtful anybody will pay to do it right.

There are lots of different commercial software programs for tracking and managing documents, most are targeted at digital documents but some also track / catalog physical files. I'm not aware of any viable free / open source software in this category, but something may exist possibly something targeted at libraries.

Things to consider:
1. Get one or more high quality document scanners, digitize on demand. The files never need to leave the file room again. Pair this with a quality document management system and related IT services.

2. You can do bar codes, plenty of document management systems use them but I wouldn't bother with bar code scanners. If you assigned a case insensitive alpha-numeric id to the files 4 characters long a-z, 0-9 you could uniquely id over 1.6 million files. Do you really need a bar code scanner to save you from typing 4 or fewer characters especially if funds are limited?

3. Some document management systems generate printed pages with bar codes used to differentiate between documents when they're scanned and link them with digital records. These systems may or may not allow you to use an alpha numeric id. If you can't scan on demand, something like this is a good option placing a sheet like this with a bar code in the files when they're used would speed up a future transition to digital records.

4. Tracking files by bar code or other identifiers is dependent on people actually using it. People can be set in their ways. If you can integrate it into other computer software and enforce its use it could work otherwise it isn't really any better than a sign in/out sheet.

5. Another option albeit more expensive is to use RFID tags. This can even involve passive sensors that track when a file enters/exits a particular room and wands you can wave around to find things.

There are ways you could cobble together something along the lines of what you imagined, but you have to be careful or it will be an inconvenience and people will forget to use it all the time. I'd try to implement something that will be more functional over a longer term. You'd need to create fluid workflows. It needs to be easy to create new labels making sure the ID is unique and to actually track the files.
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Last edited by jkee October 19, 2015 at 11:41 PM
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#3
Quote from jkee View Post :
Sounds like a lost cause since it's doubtful anybody will pay to do it right.


5. Another option albeit more expensive is to use RFID tags. This can even involve passive sensors that track when a file enters/exits a particular room and wands you can wave around to find things.

There are ways you could cobble together something along the lines of what you imagined, but you have to be careful or it will be an inconvenience and people will forget to use it all the time. I'd try to implement something that will be more functional over a longer term. You'd need to create fluid workflows. It needs to be easy to create new labels making sure the ID is unique and to actually track the files.
You gave me a lot to think about. Thank you for your input.

So my idea is the same as a RFID but 90% cheaper. with QR code or barcode. Once a folder enters the office it's required for the employee to scan it, so the system will recognize it.

but i need it, in a way so it is link to the server so everyone is updated to the location of the file.
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#4
how do you backup your files, in case of fire/flood?
maybe consider moving to digital format?
for here on out, have everyone print to PDF, and save to a shared folder
dedicate an intern to scanning everything from A-Z in order and placed them in digital filing system it belongs. This will take some time, but will work out a lot better and be more simple to manage.
You can then back up the files wherever you want to.
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#5
Quote from aznboicn View Post :
how do you backup your files, in case of fire/flood?
maybe consider moving to digital format?
for here on out, have everyone print to PDF, and save to a shared folder
dedicate an intern to scanning everything from A-Z in order and placed them in digital filing system it belongs. This will take some time, but will work out a lot better and be more simple to manage.
You can then back up the files wherever you want to.
They're a bit old fashion. So that's why I'm trying to make it as easy as possible for them. They have a big paronoia with computer.

but back to my problem.
My problem with excel is, even if I save it on a server and everyone can share the same file. All the scanner somehow connects to a main pc. It doesn't save / update automatically. You have to close and reopen the file.
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Last edited by SuicidalClown October 20, 2015 at 08:16 AM
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#6
Quote from SuicidalClown View Post :
They're a bit old fashion. So that's why I'm trying to make it as easy as possible for them. They have a big paronoia with computer.

but back to my problem.
My problem with excel is, even if I save it on a server and everyone can share the same file. All the scanner somehow connects to a main pc. It doesn't save / update automatically. You have to close and reopen the file.
Use a spare/old PC as a "catalog" PC?
Have it by the physical files, where the PC and bar code scanner are and have everyone use this 1 computer for checking out files. (unless you plan on having multiple barcode scanners)
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#7
Honestly you are going to fight an uphill battle with physical files all the time and it will never be "great".

I think the barcode thing is a lost cause and will create a lot of work for you and end up with the same results.

Your options are to go digital and invest in a document image/archival solution (expensive). Or to adopt a low-tech method of tracking files such as a sign in/out sheet or insert sticks with the employee's name where the file was. This is not a perfect solution and has it's own challenges.

Unless you are the gatekeeper and NO ONE gets a file in or out without going through you, then you will have a problem. If all files go through you, then a check in/out system with you running it would work just fine.
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#8
Quote from SuicidalClown View Post :
I work for a small office that doesn't have a software that tracks the whereabouts of their files. (physical)

We have a few thousand of files A-Z. It's a chaotic environment where a staff would grab the file and if another needs the same file, I end up having to do a filehunt.

I've been searching for a software or system I can use inexpensive.. preferably free. For me to implement. (My boss is cheap)

My idea is to use barcodes to track the folders. Is this possible. I've already established a easy way to create barcode (code128) with excel. but Is there a software or in excel to let say if I were to buy 4 scanners (4 office) and if a staff would scan a code with their scanner, the system will update - showing where the file was last scanned. = showing the location.

Or is there all other simpler way to do this?
Open for any idea. Thanks in advance
It probably doesn't matter, but what kind of office do you work in, or what kind of files are these? Only concern with simply scanning everything would be confidentiality (e.g., health records), as you'd have to take appropriate measures on the digital side to ensure that confidentiality.

How many employees are you talking about? How many files do they access in a day, and how many times do multiple people need access to the same file at the same time? As others have mentioned, it sounds like an uphill battle, but if it's only a few employees rather than a few dozen, a simple solution like inserting sticks when files are removed might work.
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Marshall: Have the rest of you guys figured out by now that mmathis is the smartest guy on SlickDeals?

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#9
From the sound of things, if there isn't an existing database or crm of some kind that contains info on clients/customers/patients something like color coded sticks for who has the file as mmathis suggests might be the best solution. If there is an existing computer database of some kind, please provide information about the existing system and type of business / # of employees.

Using excel to create bar codes is impractical. It really all needs to be integrated into one fluid easy to use system or your just wasting your time. Depending on things like the volume of files accessed per day typing in an alpah-numeric id like ZQ6 or 6G3 could be almost as fast as a bar code scanner. If you do barcodes, you'll want some kind of label printer.

Many sheet-fed document scanners include limited versions of some kind of document management software, but wouldn't allow for multiple users. These programs run a pretty wide gamut. Some call themselves "intelligent capture" programs which try to parse and identify things like bar codes and account numbers and link them appropriately in a database. There are lots of commercial programs for managing digital documents including: EMC Captiva, DocStar, SharePoint, PaperPort, ABBYY, DocuShare, kodak alaris, etc.

There are also commercial programs that a target at keeping track of physical files including: infolinx, filetrail, paper tiger, etc.

I found some open source options, but they're usually a more limited version of a commercial product and would require a fair amount of effort to install/use these include the community editions of LogicalDoc and Ephesoft.
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#10
if OP's getting paid by project + hour, he probably only wants to make his client happy, not really worrying about future, as there is no ownership in this, and possibility of another future project.
As in, OP isn't looking for permanent/best solution
no DR/Disaster Recovery in place, i'm assuming
they'll realize it when a Hurricane Sandy/Katrina comes around their way
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#11
Success will really depend on being able to implement a workflow that people will actually follow or stick to.

Here is a rudimentary way of doing this. This is contingent on being able to use google docs.

1. Get a gatekeeper for all the files: This means any one who needs a file has to go through the gate keeper (person), and cannot just randomly go grab a file.

2. Use Google docs to create a form(this is free of charge), with at least the following fields (you can add as many as you want):
File Requested by: (The name of the person who wants the file)
File Name or Number: (This has to be unique, one to one)
File Status: (Available, Unavailable, Assigned to John Doe)
Date Checked Out
Date Checked In
Add as many fields as you would want to track, then publish the form. Provide a link to the form to anyone who wishes to request a file.

When someone requests a file via the form, it will create a spreadsheet on the back end that you can use to track the data and metrics specified. It will tell you who has what file and when they had it etc. With Google docs, multiple people can request at the same time.

I hope this helps. Good luck!
Quote from SuicidalClown View Post :
I work for a small office that doesn't have a software that tracks the whereabouts of their files. (physical)

We have a few thousand of files A-Z. It's a chaotic environment where a staff would grab the file and if another needs the same file, I end up having to do a filehunt.

I've been searching for a software or system I can use inexpensive.. preferably free. For me to implement. (My boss is cheap)

My idea is to use barcodes to track the folders. Is this possible. I've already established a easy way to create barcode (code128) with excel. but Is there a software or in excel to let say if I were to buy 4 scanners (4 office) and if a staff would scan a code with their scanner, the system will update - showing where the file was last scanned. = showing the location.

Or is there all other simpler way to do this?
Open for any idea. Thanks in advance

Quote from SuicidalClown View Post :
I work for a small office that doesn't have a software that tracks the whereabouts of their files. (physical)

We have a few thousand of files A-Z. It's a chaotic environment where a staff would grab the file and if another needs the same file, I end up having to do a filehunt.

I've been searching for a software or system I can use inexpensive.. preferably free. For me to implement. (My boss is cheap)

My idea is to use barcodes to track the folders. Is this possible. I've already established a easy way to create barcode (code128) with excel. but Is there a software or in excel to let say if I were to buy 4 scanners (4 office) and if a staff would scan a code with their scanner, the system will update - showing where the file was last scanned. = showing the location.

Or is there all other simpler way to do this?
Open for any idea. Thanks in advance
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#12
Very simple idea. Go in on a weekend, light a match, throw on files. Problem solved.

See if boss will be receptive to digital and off-site back-ups next working day. LMAO
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cheap, fast, good - pick any two.

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#13
Usually, if you are on a network and the file being updated is on a shared location, one person can make updates but anyone else who tries to open the file will get a message that they have to open that file in 'read only' mode and won't be able to save changes unless they want to save the files with a new name. Please explain to me how several people are all making changes at the same time.
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#14
Quote from callpocket View Post :
Usually, if you are on a network and the file being updated is on a shared location, one person can make updates but anyone else who tries to open the file will get a message that they have to open that file in 'read only' mode and won't be able to save changes unless they want to save the files with a new name. Please explain to me how several people are all making changes at the same time.
The OP has paper documents, not digital files.
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#15
Quote from mmathis View Post :
The OP has paper documents, not digital files.
yes, but this advice would apply to the spreadsheet the op envisions.
Quote from SuicidalClown View Post :
Or is there all other simpler way to do this?
I mentioned it earlier, but consider this program: http://thepapertiger.com/
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